Flyers coach Peter Laviolette won't disclose his starting goalie for Wednesday night's season opener until the team skates in the morning, but it's clear that no matter who gets the call, it won't have much significance.
Goalies Ray Emery and Steve Mason are expected to be in a goalie battle until someone establishes himself as the front-runner during the season.
It may take a few weeks or a couple of months, so the opening-game starter against visiting Toronto isn't as important as which goalie seizes the opportunity.
"You're going to see a lot of both goaltenders," Laviolette said after Tuesday's practice in Voorhees. "We plan on utilizing them, and I think it'll be advantageous to keep our goalies fresh and we have that luxury."
Emery, 31, is expected to get Wednesday's start based on his experience and the fact that he went 17-1 last season for the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Mason, 25, struggled with Columbus last season before posting a 1.90 goals-against average in a seven-game stint with the Flyers.
The goalies were less than dominating in the preseason, playing three games apiece. Emery registered a 3.30 goals-against average and a .873 save percentage, while Mason had a 3.67 GAA and .859 save percentage.
Laviolette said he does not have a "direct road map" as to how he will use his goaltenders, which seems to indicate he will play the goalie who has the hot hand.
Mason and Emery do not like calling the situation a competition.
"Everybody wants to put that spin on it, but for Razor (Emery) and myself, our job is to provide real solid goaltending for this season and push each other in practice to be better," Mason said. "I'm not out there trying to battle Ray or anything like that. I'm just trying to get better in my individual way. If he's pushing me out there, that's a good thing."
Said Emery: "It's definitely a tandem. We're excited to work together. We both want to be in the net, but we both want each other to do well as well. However that sorts itself out, we're fine with as long as the team has success."
Wednesday's game will match two teams that went in different directions last season. The Maple Leafs made the playoffs after a nine-year absence only to lose in overtime to Boston, 5-4, after an epic late meltdown in Game 7 of their first-round matchup. The Flyers, meanwhile, missed the playoffs for just the second time in the last 18 seasons.
The Flyers scuffled through a 1-5-1 preseason, but Laviolette downplayed the results.
"I think we're ready to play hockey. We're healthy and the guys feel good," he said.
"The (exhibition) games didn't go the way we wanted, but those games don't count. The guys are excited to stop practicing and start playing games that mean something."
For what it's worth, 40 years ago, the Flyers, behind Bernie Parent's goaltending, opened the season with a 2-0 win over the visiting Maple Leafs en route to winning their first Stanley Cup.
It was the first of Parent's 12 shutouts that season. Parent set the bar high for future Flyers goalies, and in the years that have followed, no one has come close to reaching it.
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